Monday 14 January 2013

Corporations keep us customers from their Camelots!

Every single one of you has stood alone and angry, a complaint stoking the fires of rage in your soul, as you struggle to approach the giant corporation or massive institution, henceforth collectively known as ‘Monoliths’.

We are sold the lie that Capitalism brings choice which is good for consumers. The truth we deal with every day is that while the brands and logos might differ, the way we are treated is uniform and universal: with contempt.

On September 15th last year I dropped off my rental car to the Hertz facility in Faro Airport, Portugal. The 10 day rental wasn’t cheap, and on arrival we’d been informed that if we wanted to drive on the motorway at all, we had to pay for the computery toll thingy in the car.

Being hit up for this invisible extra was only mildly irritating at the time, and as we sped along the motorway towards our rented housheen, I smiled each time the little gadget went beep.

“Probably paid for itself already!” I said to the Snapper, quite reasonably imagining that the 18-plus extra quid we’d just paid was covering the cost of the toll.

Then came the credit card bill, showing a charge for €18.45 on the 18th September, which must have been the toll fee. We’d only used the motorway to get to and from our destination, so for 8 days of the 10 we’d paid no toll at all. So what were these other charges?

On September 25th I’d been charged €2.70 by Hertz Portugal, and on October 5th another €2.70 by Hertz Portugal and €11.85 by Hertz Ireland.

A shot of fear ran through me. My credit card number was doing the rounds of the Hertz Corporation, and while the amounts were tiny, the situation was mental. I figured that the two €2.70s were probably my card being wrongly charged for somebody else using the same car, but the Hertz Ireland charge was so wrong it was terrifying.

Unable to find any customer service phone number, I sent an irate email to Hertz’s online help service. Did I need to cancel my credit card? What the hell was going on?  The Monoliths we deal with take the time and trouble to tell us that calls are monitored, so it’s only fair that as a courtesy, I always mention that very possibly I’ll be writing about this in my newspaper column.

The auto-reply email guaranteed me a response in ten days. I’m still waiting, and the only reason I have a story to tell you is that I’m one persistent mad-arsed fucker when wronged.

To be honest, way beyond my desire for refunds and explanations, a sense of duty comes over me: I’m doing it for all you others, who have neither the time nor the energy to take on the Monoliths. The task is made easier by the fact that I’m working on a story, as well as trying to identify the thieving tykes that have been robbing my credit card.

As we all know to our cost, trying to find real humans to speak to at Head Offices impossibly removed from customers is the 21st century Grail. The Monoliths protect themselves in communicatory Camelots, pouring buckets of boiling contempt over their walls at their pathetic customers, struggling to be heard in their quest for justice. To divert us they have created international firewalls called Call Centres that exist only to remove the filthy customer as far from the glitzy corridors of power as possible.

I started making phone calls, always polite, invariably thwarted, until my problem became less that I had lost money and more that the story was going nowhere.

As I repeatedly told an endless line of enthusiastic and willing people who successively failed to help me, a furious punter does not a great story make. Angry copy only amuses readers for a little while. Counterbalance is king.

What I needed from Hertz was an explanation, an apology and a statement, so that I’d be able to write a balanced account of events.

My problem was that as I was steered this way and sent from that department to this customer service person and back, Hertz were just making things worse for themselves.

Finally, having admitted that they had no idea why or how the Hertz Ireland charge was made against me, they offered to refund me that money

“… as a gesture of (sic) a goodwill.”

Having robbed me, repeatedly failing to explain how or why it had happened, and nowhere near convincing me it wouldn't happen again, their best tactic was to imply I was making it up?

After months of idly simmering ire, my anger shot up to a steaming rolling boil. I finally wrote a long and reasoned account of the entire matter, explaining that this was their last chance. If they couldn't deal with it in any way better, I’d just write the story as a one-sided rant.

I received an email from Hertz’s Director of Global HR Communications and International Public Relations. She explained, apologised and came up with almost satisfactory solutions. I’ll never buy her guff about the toll charges, because it made no sense. She promised an upgrade of membership and compensatory vouchers. She admitted that the Hertz Ireland charge was a mistake.

All amounts have been refunded, but I’m still waiting for that upgraded membership card and those vouchers.

Still, I live in hope.

It is ridiculous that we customers have to work so hard to attain our basic consumer rights. It’s also absurd that rather than being able to deal with this fairly pedestrian matter at customer service level, a Director had to deal with it herself. My desire was not to trouble the highest tiers of the Monolith, but simply to attain what must be the absolute lowest echelon of expectation as a customer: the right not to be robbed.


H said...

On behalf of all the irate consumers,

Thank you Sir Cadley!!!

Charlie Adley said...

Why thanks H! Hope you're doing well!

Charlie Adley said...

The vouchers turned up. Miracle. Now it's just the card (which I don't really care about but they said it was coming)and then we're done.